Thesp-director in sights to join 'Sopranos'

Now that HBO and James Gandolfini have settled their dispute over salary, the network and creator David Chase are negotiating a deal with Steve Buscemi to play a recurring character on the series, as well as direct episodes. Buscemi has made a commitment to be available for two seasons, in the event that Chase decides to go beyond a fifth season that is about to begin production.

The deal underscores what a directing fixture Buscemi has become for the network. He earned an Emmy nom for directing a “Sopranos” episode and has helmed “Oz” episodes as well as the pilot for “Baseball Wives.” Buscemi has also directed the films “Trees Lounge” and “Animal Factory.”

A thug’s life

As an actor, the Brooklyn-born Buscemi seems perfectly cast to join the Jersey-based Sopranos crime clan. He’s played convincing criminals in films ranging from “Fargo” to “Reservoir Dogs” and “Con Air.” Buscemi is currently shooting “Big Fish” for director Tim Burton at Columbia, and he is expected to join the “Sopranos” cast for work shortly after.

Buscemi’s double deal is a welcome sign to “Sopranos” faithful that the show is back on track, as the network and Gandolfini end a bitter and protracted stalemate that left some fearing the mob drama might sleep with the fishes.

Buscemi is repped by The Firm and Endeavor.

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